Ask almost anyone who they think is the best player in the 2019 NBA draft, and they'll say Zion Williamson.
Ask RJ Barrett, and he'll say RJ Barrett.
"Of course," Barrett said when asked if he believes he's the best player in this class during Tuesday's Get Up, hours before the NBA draft lottery. "I believe in myself. I believe in my abilities. Who doesn't think that they're the best? I've put in the work and time just like everybody else. So, yes, I do believe I'm the best player."
These are questions that are borderline impossible for any player to answer. If Barrett says he's the best, he's saying he's better than Williamson—and thus opening himself to skepticism. If Barrett says Williamson is the best player, it would look like he's being demure or lacks competitiveness.
The answer Barrett gave is about the best way to come off as self-assured without seeming brash.
Barrett is widely considered the second- or third-best player in what many view as a three-player class. Whether he goes No. 2 or No. 3 behind Williamson will likely be more about fit than whether he's a worse player than Ja Morant. Zion is in a class by himself; Barrett and Morant are neck and neck on most boards in a tier below.
That said, Barrett isn't used to coming in second. He was the consensus top player in his class coming out of high school in 2018, per 247Sports' composite rankings, and had one of the best scoring seasons for a freshman in NCAA history. While there are clear flaws in Barrett's game, it was mostly Zion's sheer brilliance that pushed him down draft boards.
Barrett also projects to be even better as a pro than he was in college. Too often he had to—both because of circumstance and his own aggression—take tough shots as part of Duke lineups that lacked spacing. He'll benefit from the increased space of the NBA game, and it's not far-fetched to think he'll wind up being the best pro in this class.